Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Defensive Authority Must Be Maintained If Side Is to Stay Up; Sam Allardyce Deserves Credit for Returning to His 3-5-2 Experiment, Argues Phil Smith

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Defensive Authority Must Be Maintained If Side Is to Stay Up; Sam Allardyce Deserves Credit for Returning to His 3-5-2 Experiment, Argues Phil Smith

Article excerpt

EVEN at the time, Sunderland's derby day win felt like a false dawn. Monday night's victory at Crystal Palace, however, hinted at something more concrete to build a recovery around.

Total football, it was not but nor was it quite the '18th century' style for which Allardyce has been disparaged in the past.

A 'back to basics' approach it may have been but Sunderland always had attacking options on the field, complementing what was a supreme rearguard performance from the back three.

It will have been an especially pleasing night for Younes Kaboul, who has, been the source of stinging criticism on Sky's Monday Night Football previously this season.

Though their passing left a lot to desired, the three centre-halves marshalled Connor Wickham well and were totally dominant in the air. If this had been a game of 'headers and volleys' they'd have won at a canter.

Allardyce derseves real credit for the win, his brave move to return to the 3-5-2 which unravelled so spectacularly at Goodison Park paying off handsomely.

Last year, Yannick Bolasie scored a ten-minute hat-trick as Sunderland's defence was ripped apart.

It was obvious going into Monday night's game Crystal Palace would have a significant advantage out wide and the third centre-half was critical in keeping a clean sheet.

When Billy Jones and Patrick can Aanholt were beaten by Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha's trickery, Kaboul and Coates were able to step in to provide extra help.

Kaboul made three tackles in the game, all of them in an area where a traditional left-back would be found.

Sebastian Coates did the same on the right but with an even more impressive six challenges. When the ball did find its way into the box, the extra man made all the difference. During a recent press conference, the now-departed Gateshead manager Malcolm Crosby was discussing his team's struggle to defend set-pieces.

They'd worked hard on it in training, he said, but at the end of the day there's only one ball. …

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